A new drive to reduce the number of businesses that pay the corporate income tax and tangible property tax headlines Gov. Rick Scott’s legislative agenda, even though state lawmakers face a budget shortfall pegged at $1.3 billion and growing.

In a visit to Central Florida to unveil his economic agenda, Scott said he would ask lawmakers to double the corporate income tax exemption to $50,000, which would drop 25 percent of the companies that currently pay it from the tax roles. After Scott’s original plan to cut the tax rate stumbled last year, the Legislature instead approved a measure increasing the exemption to $25,000.

Under that change, about half of Florida businesses already pay no taxes.

Scott also proposed a $50,000 exemption from the tangible personal property tax on businesses, allowing 150,000 of the 300,000 companies that now pay the levy to avoid it. That would require a constitutional amendment voters would consider later in 2012.

“One of the most important things Florida can do to attract businesses, and in turn jobs, is to create a tax environment that welcomes business growth and encourages investment in our state,” Scott said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks.

Scott also said he would push to turn Florida’s unemployment system into a “reemployment system” by requiring some workers to undergo job training while receiving benefits. He also touted proposals to tighten oversight of the state’s workforce boards; improve the state’s deep-water ports and transportation system; and push universities to focus more on degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Scott’s proposed tax cuts could run into resistance as lawmakers try to tackle a budget shortfall that could top $2 billion.

However, House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, embraced the plan.

“I look forward to working alongside Gov. Scott and my colleagues in the Florida Legislature during the upcoming session as we strive to meet our shared goal of reducing the tax burden on Florida families and businesses, eliminating burdensome regulations, and implementing thoughtful public policy reforms that will foster both a business climate ripe for private sector job creation and a skilled workforce ready to meet the needs of a global economy,” Cannon said in a statement following the announcement.

Calling Scott’s plans “ambitious,” Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, was more measured in his response. Haridopolos, who was at times openly skeptical of Scott’s plan to reduce the corporate tax rate last year, made no specific reference to the proposed tax-cut plan in his reaction.

“In the coming months and throughout the 2012 legislative session, we will work closely with the governor in order to implement measures that will continue to provide stability and predictability to our state’s business owners and entrepreneurs, as well as pursue an agenda that is focused on job creation and economic development,” he said.

Source: News Service of Florida, Brandon Larrabee